This is the first in a series of interviews with Jrock artists. But like the title suggests, Jrock Revolution didn’t ask the questions… YOU did. Every interview in this series is made up of questions submitted to us by YOU, the fans!
First up is the first visual kei band to hit America… DuelJewel! HAYATO (Vocal), SHUN (Guitar), YUYA (Guitar), NATSUKI (Bass), and VAL (Drums, also known as BARU) delved into their Jrock Revolution experience, and what it’s meant to the band to have taken that first step into the American convention circuit. They had many warm words for their overseas fans!
Having been the first visual band to perform in the U.S. in 2002, what was your reaction to being part of this first step of Jrock Revolution? Do you have any strong emotions about having been the first visual band to perform in the U.S.? ~Alice R.
HAYATO: The first time we went there, we encountered many difficulties doing the live due to the language barrier and differences in ways of doing things. But we learned a lot because of that, and also met many unforgettable people there. Our experience then has become a treasure to us, and we hope that it contributed even a little towards this event’s success. We were not very conscious of being the first band there, but doing a live in America was very meaningful to Duel Jewel.
SHUN: To say that it didn’t affect us would be a lie, but even if the fact that it happened is not known to the world, we ourselves still take pride in it. This is not about Japanese visual rock bands, or anything outrageous, but simply would be great if it helped Duel Jewel to grown in America.
YUYA: The live in America was accomplished with the support of many people. The boom (trend) for Japanese rock music has grown throughout the years, and we are very happy to be able to perform on the same stage with so many talented bands.
VAL: The first time we went to America, we were not sure about the details of the event, and the equipment wasn’t adjusted property, and we were very hesitant at first. But after seeing the reaction from the audience, we were very happy that the visual kei culture has been accepted by America. If our visit to America was one of the reasons for the rising popularity of visual kei in the world, we are very happy about that.
What inspired you to get into the visual scene? ~Saffie
HAYATO: I’ve always wanted to sing since I was little, but I actually became aware of my desire to make a band like this when I was in my second year of junior high, after listening to LUNA SEA.
SHUN: When I opened my eyes to music, I felt that visual kei was the most unique and highly entertaining—on a high level musically.
YUYA: I was influenced by artists such as LUNA SEA and identified with their expressing a unique view of the world through makeup and costumes.
NATSUKI: I can’t remember at all.
VAL: I was not especially set on doing visual kei myself; I think of it as a category that happens to be the way we choose to express our music.
Where does your band name come from? ~Jeff
(Note: The band responded more about how they chose the name.)
HAYATO: When I met SHUN and VAL, this name was already decided.
SHUN: VAL and I decided on it. Although it has a weird meaning in English, I like it a lot myself. It’s hard to pronounce, though… *laugh*
YUYA: It was already decided when I joined so I have no idea.
NATSUKI: I don’t know.
VAL: We decided it after consulting amongst ourselves.
You made your U.S. debut playing at Japanese culture/anime conventions. Do you plan to continue going to these conventions? ~Brittney F.
HAYATO: If we have the chance, we’d like to go as many times as possible. But we also would like to do a live tour that only focuses on music as soon as we can. I love anime, though.
SHUN: If there are good offers, we’ll go as many times as possible. Because I like America.
YUYA: If we get invited we will definitely go.
NATSUKI: We would like to continue attending such events as long as we can.
VAL: If we were presented with the opportunity, we would go, but we also think our activities in our homeland Japan are very important, so if the timing is right and there’s a chance for that we would definitely try to attend.
You started touring in the US very early in ’02. Can you tell us about any significant differences for you between then and now (such as gigs being easier to book, quicker ticket sales, larger crowds, etc.)? ~Sam
HAYATO: We feel that the people who know about us, whether in America or in Japan, has increased a lot in numbers. Before, we just wanted to have our music heard and it was always challenging to see the reaction. We still do the same now, but the difference is that the people are gathered because they know our music already and are expecting even better music from us, so even when we are in Japan we often think about American fans, or are conscious of them. It seems that the event this time was sold out; in that sense this time around is very different from before.
SHUN: At that time, we did not have a big audience in Japan. But we gained a lot of confidence after seeing the large number of people in the audience and standing on a big stage. I am still proud of the fact that we were not afraid of performing at a large venue which we had no experience doing, and a strange braveness.
YUYA: This time, the live at the Wiltern was the biggest we have experienced, and it was very different because it was pumped up and very successful with the support of YOSHIKI-san and famous bands.
NATSUKI: I think there are many things that are different. I don’t remember anything in particular.
VAL: We pretty much had to do everything ourselves on the first tour; if we hadn’t had the help from the American staff we wouldn’t have been able to anything. This time, though, for everything from lighting to sound staff, we were able to bring our own Japanese staff, so it was much easier. We are still very thankful to the American staff that helped us the first time we went to America.
What did you think of the people who camped out so many days in advance at the Jrock Revolution Festival just to see you? ~Nicole F.
HAYATO: We were very happy. Seeing such warm welcomes from the fans made us very excited, and we felt that we needed to do something to return. We were only concerned about whether or not they were able to take showers.
SHUN: We love you! Please support us so that we can come back to America again!
YUYA: We are only here because of your support. Thank you.
NATSUKI: I think it was a very happy thing. I also think it was amazing.
VAL: When we heard that there were people who have been lining up for days, we very happy. We were very thankful for the fans who were waiting for us even though we hadn’t been to the U.S. for a while.
Did you think that this live was different from any other lives you’ve performed in, such as at anime conventions? If so, how was it different? ~Maria Vasquez
HAYATO: There were more people who already knew about our music. Most people were there simply for the music, which made us want to stay there for longer.
SHUN: We were almost taken aback by the improvement in sound equipment and effect. There were many people amongst the staff that we actually knew, so we were able to be relaxed as we did the live.
YUYA: It was definitely a huge difference compared to before in that it was a place made to have good sound.
NATSUKI: Everything was different. Most of all was the fact that all the staff were Japanese, so we did not have language barriers, and we were able to pay attention to details.
VAL: The biggest difference was in the sound equipment. It was definitely because the staff were professionals that we were able to do the live in such a good environment.
Many fans in the front were dancing along and doing the furitsuke (coordinated hand movements). How does that make you feel? ~Maria Vasquez
HAYATO: I was surprised that they knew how to do it. Although it was a bit different from the Japanese fans, I liked it because it felt more “American.”
SHUN: I was surprised that it had penetrated into America.
YUYA: Everyone did great.
NATSUKI: I was happy about it, since they still remembered even though we hadn’t done a live in America for years.
VAL: It was interesting because everyone started doing it just like our Japanese fans.
Did you watch any of the other bands’ performances? If so, who was your favorite? ~Nicole F.
HAYATO: We pretty much were not able to watch anything the day we performed. The second day we wanted to see the bands’ performances but we had to go back to Japan. The only one we were able to see was Kagrra,’s performance in the monitor room; it was very cool and had so much flair. I felt honored to be able to perform with them.
SHUN: It was unfortunate that I was only able to hear the sound, but SUGIZO-san’s guitar meant a lot to me.
YUYA: I was surprised by the quality of Kagrra,’s music.
NATSUKI: I didn’t get to see anything.
VAL: All the bands were great.
Was there something you were able to do at Jrock Revolution Festival that you couldn’t in the previous times you came to the U.S? ~Maria Vasquez
HAYATO: Since almost all of the staff were Japanese, with all Japanese bands, it had this “made in Japan” feeling that I liked. Although it was nice having the support of the American staff last time, we’d wanted to someday have a chance to demonstrate a Japanese quality.
SHUN: Hmm. The biggest thing is probably the fact that we were able to do a live with so many bands that we know in Japan in one day.
YUYA: We’ve always tried our best in all lives, but working together (with other bands) to do a live together definitely made it better than usual.
NATSUKI: The fact that we were able to bring Japanese staff with us. The stage was also impressive.
VAL: Nothing in particular.
Is there any chance that you will add more English messages to the blogs on your site for your U.S. fans? ~Brittney F.
HAYATO: I’m thinking about it. But the content is sometimes out of control, so we might make someone angry.
SHUN: If we get a staff member who is good with English translation, then we will do it.
YUYA: I want to try to remember English.
NATSUKI: I want to increase those as much as possible.
VAL: It takes time to think up English, so if I have the chance I’ll try to do it.
Hayato and Val, do you play any other instruments to record your compositions? ~Wesley
HAYATO: No. Sometimes I get asked to play violin, but since it was when I was a kid that I played, I can’t play any more, unfortunately.
VAL: I can play a little bit of guitar but only the easy chords; I need more practice.
Do you plan on making another full length album in the near future? ~Ravon
HAYATO: We are in the process of making one but we can’t tell you the details. I can only say: Look forward to it!
SHUN: It’s a secret. Please look forward to it!
YUYA: I cannot say anything right now but we are working hard towards that.
NATSUKI: It’s a secret. Please look forward to our full album.
VAL: I’d like to make one!
Do you all usually hang out together when Duel Jewel isn’t touring and recording? ~Brittney F.
HAYATO: We do barbeques! It’s really fun.
SHUN: Barbeques, or we go drinking.
YUYA: Sometimes BBQ, sometimes drinking.
NATSUKI: We do BBQ sometimes. It’s fun.
VAL: We don’t really get together often. We do get along well, though.
Hayato, did you take any vocal lessons? ~Saffie
HAYATO: Yes. I listen to objective comments, and also learn about things more on the mental level.
Who are the musicians that inspire each of you to play? ~Wesley
HAYATO: The biggest is LUNA SEA. I’m also influenced by many other musicians, but the biggest is definitely LUNA SEA.
SHUN: I’ve been influenced by countless musicians. But to name the origins of my influences, it would definitely be LUNA SEA and X JAPAN. I also have a lot of influences from American bands.
YUYA: LUNA SEA, X, BUCK-TICK, etc.
NATSUKI: J-san of LUNA SEA.
VAL: LUNA SEA, X, SIAM SHADE, La’cryma Christi, and many others.
Would you ever become a major band instead of independent? ~Iori
HAYATO: My goal is to be in DuelJewel for the rest of my life. If there’s a need for that, we will go with the flow.
SHUN: When it’s meant to be, and we get a good offer, we are thinking that we will go major. But the requirement would be that doing so will expand our activities for sure.
YUYA: Hmm. I don’t know yet.
NATSUKI: I think that if we can, we will. Of course.
VAL: Well? I don’t know myself. *laugh*
What would each member most likely be doing now if you weren’t rock stars? ~Jamie Williams
HAYATO: Sushi chef.
SHUN: Probably a creative job using computers, since I’m pretty good with computers.
YUYA: I think I would have become the second Bill Gates.
NATSUKI: I can’t really imagine. Maybe I would have been a piano teacher.
VAL: I wanted to be a professional fighter.
Do you have any plans to make future releases and merchandise more available to fans in America and other countries as well? ~Shelaine
HAYATO: Definitely, we’d like to do so. Please support us then.
SHUN: If there are people who would like to work with DuelJewel, we will travel overseas as much as we can.
YUYA: Nothing as of now, but we would like to do so.
NATSUKI: There are no plans for that yet, but we would like to work hard to increase the availability of merchandise overseas.
VAL: There are no plans, but personally I would like to do that.
Do you feel that, by being very brave and breaking into the U.S. music scene ahead of others, you may have actually begun Jrock Revolution five years ago? ~Alice R
HAYATO: I don’t think it was such a big thing, but if we were not brave enough to go to America five years ago, there wouldn’t be the DuelJewel we have now. The opportunity and success we got from America was indeed great. Thank you all.
SHUN: The success this time was the result of all the Japanese visual kei rock bands’ combined history and effort. We just happened to be there first. Even if we had not gone there, Japanese visual kei would have made it overseas sooner or later.
YUYA: I think it was a start, but it is more important that so many bands worked so hard to make this scene popular.
NATSUKI: I didn’t think that much of it. Many other bands also went to America after that.
VAL: It just happened so that we were the first band to go; no matter which band was the first one to go, this event (JRR) would still have taken place. But I do think it became a start for other bands to begin going to America.
Interview by JROCK REVOLUTION FANS
Translated by Christina
Edited by Misha